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George X's Monkey
George X's Monkey

Sadly, no child close to me is really very interested in learning to make quilts or about any fabric related opportunities at all. I am hopeful that Kathy‘s Jessie may take an interest, or one of the nieces will come around eventually.

You can imagine how thrilled I was when George X (11YO) came over and was interested in making a small stuffed animal. One reason he was interested was that The Child was not home and George X had nothing really to do. I explained the basic process to him and we got started.

I gave him a large sheet of paper folded in half. On one half, he drew the detailed version – his ideal. On the other side, we drew the pattern together. He drew and I told him how to do it.

Detailed picture
Detailed picture

I knew I needed to get him to stitching pretty quickly, so I tried to keep the process simple. After he cut out the pattern, we picked fabric, pressed fabric, cut out the fabric and he began stitching. I tried to show him what to do, inspire confidence and supervise. I tried really hard not to hover. It was easier since I had a project I was working on as well.

Monkey Project
Monkey Project

I wanted him to do as much handwork as possible for two reasons. First, I wanted him to get the feel of the piece. Second, I was using the machine.

Learning to Stitch
Learning to Stitch

I had him sew the tummy on with a running stitch. Yes, it is raw edge applique’. I know that the tummy will ravel, but I will help him fix any problems.

George IX came home and George X lost interest in fabric. Video games were just too tempting. I put the piece away – with all the parts – for the next time.

I was pleased when George X excitedly wanted to show his parents what he had done. I look forward to working on the monkey with him again.

Responding to the Readers

The Girl with the Green Lips
The Girl with the Green Lips

Last weekend I posted the latest iteration of the Tarts. Mostly, I get really nice, short comments on my posts. I was surprised and delighted to find a long and thought provoking comment from SherriD.  She wrote:

“You are more of a trained artist than I am, I think. You’ve taken classes or studied art perhaps? So I am only asking these questions in order to understand as I have not taken any art classes or quilting classes for that matter. :)

1. Why did you choose to have the purple background and the pie’s innerds almost the same shade? (btw, I like the orange crust very much!)

2. On three of big corner pots, are you going to embellish them with perhaps something like thread painting?

3. Have you considered adding cookies or scones? I noticed that you have in a row, cream and sugar, then two cups, then a cupcake with another cup.

I hate to say things about someone else’s work but I really am curious as to the “why” in your projects. This is such a happy quilt in process. I love the colors and have really enjoyed watching the progress.”

Thanks to SherriD for taking the time to post a comment – a long and thoughtful comment. I thought responding through a post would be a great way to spark conversation about SherriD’s thoughts among all of my readers.

I was not an art major in college, though my major did allow me a lot of opportunities to take classes outside of the required courses. I took art history classes, studio art classes, Swedish, German, political science (blech!) and many others. I have also taken a lot of continuing ed and adult ed classes in art practice. I am not so much trained in art as informed by the classes I have taken.

In a roundabout way, I have tried to answer SherriD’s questions below.

I have taken a number of art classes and lots of quiltmaking classes. Many people think it is a badge of honor or courage not to have taken any classes and to have taught themselves. I applaud you for your fortitude. I just don’t have it in me to learn by myself. I learn by someone showing me and by doing, so I take classes regularly. While I am not interested in taking art practice classes right now and I am interested in taking more quiltmaking classes, I enjoy taking classes, in general, for a number of reasons:

  1. I don’t learn well by myself with books, especially something completely new.
  2. Even if I never finish a class project I always take something away from the class or the teacher.
  3. I like being a  room with other people. I enjoy seeing what they are doing and how they are reacting to the teacher.
  4. I work mostly alone, so classes get me out of the workroom.
  5. Classes re-energize me when I get back into my workroom.
  6. I get turned on to new sources of inspiration, such as books, blogs and websites by the teacher and students in a class.
  7. Classes clarify things that I don’t understand.
  8. I am a visual learner so I learn best when someone shows me how to do something.
  9. Classes make me think about things in different ways.
The Girl with the Green Lips, detail
The Girl with the Green Lips, detail

This is one of my favorite pieces from a studio art class. It is colored pencil on Bristol Board and I took the class from Wayne Thiebaud’s assistant at the time. I wish I remembered his name, because I would LOVE to thank him. You might recognize the image from an old Lancome ad featuring Isabella Rossellini. I also took a framing class after college and framed this piece myself.

The other thing I do is practice. When you see a piece of pie appliqued down as part of the Tarts, what you see is the final piece. Sometimes I sketch many, many drawings before I make a pattern and cut fabric. I don’t consider myself to be an accomplished drawer (if that is a word). I do feel like I am getting better and I feel like I am getting better because I practice. Drawing skill is not something with which I was born. I feel that most people don’t have it when they are born. Drawing is a skill a person needs to practice. If you want to draw well, practice. You will draw a lot of crap before you draw something great. The thing to remember is that if you practice you will draw something great.

Tarts, June 14, 2009, with Pie
Tarts, June 14, 2009, with Pie

SD: “1. Why did you choose to have the purple background and the pie’s innerds almost the same shade? (btw, I like the orange crust very much!)”

In this piece, and often in other pieces, I struggle with the limits placed on me by the color wheel. I love color and, sometimes there just aren’t enough. When selecting fabrics for pieces like the piece of pie, I often decide on the background based on other large pieces in the quilt top first. My criteria for background vary, but often have nothing to do with the image on top of the background. I never thought about it before SherriD asked about my choices.
I examined my process and found that I figure out a good background and then go to work on the main image. In this case, I wanted to use the purple fabric for the inside of the pie because it looked like blueberries. It turns out that I didn’t put all the pieces together in my mind or on the wall until I started to stitch the pieces down. Normally, my rule is to “make visual decisions visually.” This is a classic line from Lorraine Torrence.
I always know that I can remake a block, so I decided to put the block up and look at it for awhile to see if it was too purple.

SD: “2. On three of big corner pots, are you going to embellish them with perhaps something like thread painting?”

The piecing and machine applique’ I am working on now has come to be barely the first step. My thinking on this piece was clarified, somewhat, after I took the Pamela Allen class. I decided that I needed, and wanted, to embellish this piece. At this time, I am focusing on getting the top together. I need the piece together to use as a canvas for the embellishment. I don’t know right now if I will use transparent fabrics, like organza, or Perl cotton, or beads or all of the above. I will, almost certainly, add some steam in appropriate places and some designs to areas I think are too plain.

As I often say: Stay Tuned.

SD: “3. Have you considered adding cookies or scones? I noticed that you have in a row, cream and sugar, then two cups, then a cupcake with another cup.”

Yes, I have considered cookies and scones. Because of their shapes, they don’t make good candidates for standing out and people knowing what they are. They are too flat, I guess. I also don’t want to introduce many more whites and beiges to the piece.

One of my goals with my quiltmaking has been to be about the process. It is hard, because my personality makes me very goal oriented. I realized a year or two ago that making a lot of quilts wasn’t as important to be as making good quilts that interested me. Since I don’t make my living by quiltmaking, I felt it was more important for me to enjoy what I was doing more than just getting it done. It is a struggle for me, but I have to keep trying.